Tom’s Interview on Pete Heck Show
The Pete Heck Show can be heard locally on WIBC 93.1 FM on Sunday’s at 8:00am. He recently interviewed Life Center’s Executive Director Tom Shevlot.
PH: We have here a long-time sponsor of the program, and great friends – I regard what they do as a ministry, beyond just a business and all that. It’s Life Centers of Indianapolis, and we’ve got Tom Shevlot of Life Centers on the line right now, Tom, I don’t just want this to be a sponsor plug time. I want folks to hear you, to hear your passion, to hear your heart for this issue of life and everything that you’re doing there at Life Centers. First of all thanks for joining us.
Tom: You’re welcome, thank you for inviting me.
PH: Absolutely. First of all, let me just ask you to let folks know what sets you apart – there’s a lot of great pro-life organizations that are out there and one of the things I try to do is to articulate on a weekly basis what kind of sets you apart – let me let you do it, you’re the expert.
Tom: That’s a great question, because in fact I just had a conversation with someone earlier regarding the pro-life movement and as I was sharing with him the delineation is yes, we are pro-life, but we are actually on the ground and on the front lines in the community with pregnancy centers. We have eight pregnancy centers, five of which are in Marion County, three in the outlying areas. And essentially we are there where the need is the greatest – so that pregnancy center that is located in the neighborhood is vital because when that client comes into our center, she is greeted, she is welcomed with love and compassion and whatever the issue is that brought her there, we are there on the front lines. We’re not a legislative, political action committee. We are not lobbying down at the state house on pro-life issues, there are other organizations that do that. So to answer your question, what sets us apart is we are on the front lines, in the neighborhoods, in the communities, meeting our clients’ needs.
PH: You said you have eight facilities, so what kind of, this isn’t the right term for it, but what kind of traffic do you see at those facilities?
Tom: Sure – The Marion County facilities have higher traffic just because of the density of population – so last year, for example, we saw upwards of almost 9,000 unique clients – meaning first time people walking into our centers. They are there for a multitude of reasons, whether it’s there for pregnancy support items, whether it’s there for counseling, whether they’re there for a pregnancy test, or whether they’re there showing up for an ultrasound appointment.
PH: One of the things that really stuck in my side, that annoys me, and there are multiple things that annoy me about Planned Parenthood, but is the tendency of Planned Parenthood and their activists and their apologists not only to go out and attack the pro-life movement, but to attack pregnancy resource centers like yours saying you’re feeding misinformation. What does a woman get, or a family get, when they come to Life Centers?
Tom: Yeah I’ll answer that, but I want to throw out a distinction that’s important, the difference between what we do and what Planned Parenthood does. Planned Parenthood has an economic interest in that client. That’s where they derive a great deal of their revenue, is by the services that they perform, which is primarily abortion. Our initiative is not economic whatsoever. So there in no economic interest whatsoever for a client to walk in our door. We make no money off of that client. So when that person, that young lady and young man enters our centers, they are immediately greeted and we have an intake form that they will fill out that basically says what’s the reason for their visit. And so from that form, from that questionnaire, we get a pretty good idea about why they’re there. And the thing that I think is probably most important that I have learned since I’ve been a part of this organization is that at the end of the counseling session, at the end of the visit, there is an opportunity for that client to answer an open-ended question, and that open-ended question is what is most memorable about your visit? And by far the primary response, the majority response has been I felt loved, there was compassion and I didn’t feel judged. And that really and truly is at the heart of what we do – we try to meet every client at their need without judgment, and show them God’s love and compassion and try to help them in the situation that they’re dealing with.
PH: If you’re not making an economic profit off of folks who come to your facility the natural question anybody is going to have is how do you sustain it? How do you keep the doors open – how does that work?
Tom: Yeah, and a question I get often as well is do you get federal funding like Planned Parenthood does? No. We take no federal, state or local tax income whatsoever; we are solely funded by the individual donations – by individuals, companies, and churches.
PH: So if a person wants to be part of that, if they are hearing what you’re saying, the best place to go is lifecenters.com I assume.
Tom: Absolutely. Lifecenters.com. There are a number of different ways that you can support the ministry by going there, whether it’s through purchasing a pro-life license plate, whether it’s through United Way – if your company is participating in United Way you can donate there, we are a ministry or an organization that is a benefactor of that. Also Amazon Smile, purchasing through that, we’re under their nonprofit section. Or there are individual, direct contributions.
PH: One of the things that you said earlier regarding Planned Parenthood – and we are talking about all of this – one of big the lies, one of the big deceptions is that pregnancy resource centers exist to convince people not to have abortions, but then they are out on their own, and what are you gonna do with that baby? That’s one of the things you hear from Planned Parenthood, who of course – it’s projections is what it is – because then a woman comes in and has an abortion and then boom, she’s out on her own, but you guys are not like that – it’s one of the things that I firmly believe in, combating that lie that your interest in serving this person ends after they’ve had the baby – that’s not the case, correct?
Tom: Pete, yeah, that’s very well said. I find it interesting, the name of Planned Parenthood and their main objection is not to make a parent out of the client. You’re spot on; our work is not finished when that client leaves the pregnancy resource center. Depending on her need, or depending on the situation, we have multiple pair-up organizations or what we call ministry partners that we are connected with in the community – some are faith-based and some are not, it depends on the situation. So if we find out and uncover that there’s a domestic violence situation – there are other issues that are outside of what we are trained, and we have great partners that we connect with so that there is a warm handoff between us and the referral agency – whether it’s adoption, whether it’s abuse, whether it’s parenting classes, or just basic financial planning – when a client comes in and she wants to parent, but she’s having a difficult time in trying to manage her finances and her budget, we have resources available to be able to connect her and help her be able to get that information so that she’ll be able to be equipped to go out and take care of that child.
PH: Somebody’s out there, they are listening to this, and maybe they’ve got a family member, maybe it’s them themselves, that’s dealing with a situation that they didn’t anticipate having to deal with. Obviously, if you had the opportunity to speak to them, what would be your heart, what would you say to them – I’m sure it’s something you do on a daily basis.
Tom: Wow, yeah, that’s another really good question because I hear it time after time from our center directors and our counselors that tell me because I’m always asking what’s going on, what are you hearing? And that is one of the things that I would think would be a big issue – someone finds themselves in a pregnancy-related decision, and then the parents were involved and other family members are involved, and at first it might be what am I going to do? I’m not ready to be a parent, or what kind of support system do I have? All those emotions range from one end to the other. I will tell you that from day in to day out for 32 years Life Centers has been right here doing this in the Indianapolis area, and we are equipped to be able to walk that client through the range of decisions and emotions, and to share with her and sometimes when the father comes in, that all is not lost. There is hope, there are ways that you can handle and deal with this by first making the right decision and that is not to abort this child.
PH: I guess I’m taking a risk just asking this but I’m going to do it anyway, because I think I know the answer and it’s okay if I’m wrong in this. Have you, in all the years that you’ve been associated with this organization, have you ever had a client, have you ever heard anyone come in afterwards and regret having their child?
Tom: No. I’ve been at Life Centers for a year and a half; I came from the private sector. But my wife and I have been supporters of Life Centers and pregnancy centers for 20 years. And I’ve asked that question of our counselors and our center directors. I’ve never had somebody come back and tell me, yeah, she came in and she had the child she said yeah, this is the worst decision I’ve ever made. I’ve never heard that. What I have heard, Pete, is the other scenario – is that they’ve come back in and they are racked with sorrow and guilt and pain because of the decision they’ve made not to parent.
PH: Let me ask you just raw numbers – there is somebody out there and they are considering supporting what you do – when I say raw numbers we are talking about human lives. What kind of an impact has Life Centers had in this area, in this state?
Tom: Yeah I would say we saw 9,000 clients, not every client that comes in is facing a pregnancy-related decision – and so of the clients that come in, let me give you a raw number, the clients indicated that if the pregnancy test comes back positive, that they are 50 percent or more likely to abort, you’re looking at about 1,500. Of that 1,500, what we know, in 2013 numbers, over 300 women chose life. Now what I want to make sure is clear is that doesn’t mean the other 1200 – we just don’t know because they don’t come back, or they’ve chosen to parent and we’ve already connected them with another agency, or they’ve chosen to parent and they go the adoption route, then we’re completely out of the picture at that point because of the anonymity.
PH: But you know, you know that we’re talking at least 300 human beings who are living because of the work that Life Centers does.
Tom: And that’s just in 2013, and you go back and you just extrapolate that number for 32 years, you do the math, over 10,000 easily, that this ministry had an impact on. There’s people now walking the planet, that are walking this planet as a result of the mother that came in and made a choice to choose life. That’s a staggering number.
PH: Lifecenters.com is the best place to go, and I’m going to encourage you – it’s the end of the year, people are looking to make contributions so the government doesn’t take all of their money, this is a great place to do it. But even if not, shoot them an email, shoot Tom an email, email@example.com, and send just a note of encouragement that says thanks for the work that you’re doing. And Tom certainly, from my heart, I express my deepest gratitude to you for making this your career and serving in this way. And certainly everybody on staff at Life Centers – you’ll continue to be in our prayers.
Tom: Thank you very much.